May 12, 2012:
Israel believes that Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has received more Ababil UAVs from Iran and is preparing to use many of them for attacks on Israel. This was tried in 2006, when two were sent against Israeli targets. One Ababil crashed and the second one was shot down by an Israeli aircraft. If Hezbollah goes to war with Israel again, as would happen if Israel attacked Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, it is believed that Hezbollah would send a dozen or more Ababils south, each armed with a 50 kg (110 pound) explosive warhead.
The Ababil has been used in Lebanon, mostly for reconnaissance, for the past decade. The Israelis feared that the low flying Ababils could come south carrying a load of nerve gas, instead of explosives. Using GPS guidance such a UAV could hit targets very accurately. If the Ababils were programmed to fly low, at night, via GPS they would be difficult to detect. Hezbollah has not yet obtained nerve gas but Israel is worried about what might happen to Syrian stocks of nerve gas.
There's nothing exotic about UAV technology, at least for something like the Ababil. Iranian UAV development also got a boost from American UAVs received in the 1970s (Firebee target drones). The Iranians have been developing UAVs since the 1980s. The first successful one, Ababil, appeared in the 1990s. There are several versions, with the current one being an 82 kg (183 pound) UAV with a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wing span, a payload of about 35 kg (77 pounds), a cruising speed of 290 kilometers an hour, and an endurance of 90 minutes. The Ababil is known to operate as far as 150 kilometers from its ground controller. But it also has GPS and a guidance system that allows it to fly a pre-programmed route and then return to its ground controllers for a landing (which is by parachute). Ababil can also be programmed to fly one-way, which would enable it to hit targets up to 400 kilometers away (carrying more fuel and less payload). The Ababil can carry a variety of day and night still and video cameras, or explosives. There are many inexpensive and very capable cameras available on the open market, as is the equipment needed to transmit video and pictures back to the ground. Iran also has a larger (174 kg/382 pounds) Mohajer IV UAV, the latest model of a line that began in the 1980s. The Mohajer II is about the same size as the Ababil.